Dancing Museums Final Conference, online, hosted virtually by Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.

Over 80 people are connected online when it begins. 90 now. And now over a 100.

Since the project is reaching an end point, let’s take a moment to remember where it all started and with which questions and desires the project was launched back in 2018.
Elisabetta Bisaro reminds us that several attention points were at the core of Dancing Museums when it started:

How the presence of dance can offer new experiences in regards to the notion of heritage in a museum space?

How to put a relationship to the audience at the centre of such a space?

How to physically engage people and see how/if movement affects their engagement with art spaces and work of arts?

How to physically support, enhance someone’s way of watching, how to suggest other ways of participation for kids, students, museum guards, visitors?

How to really work in local contexts in each country involved in the project? By maybe starting with paying attention to daily life in museums, asking ourselves who is working here, in what ways? Who is working visibly in the space and who is working in the shadows? What are the existing rules, exposed and hidden of such a space? How to work with or around them? How to take care of pressing questions such as de-colonisation, taking care of ephemeral heritage, restitution of art pieces?

It all started in Nottingham in the UK in 2018. Since then, after several residencies and workshops, a pandemic arrived and several lock-downs and Brexit happened. Bodies being immobilised, different questions arose, adding to the previous ones. How to meet now, exchange and encounter other people?

The matter quickly led to a drive to experiment. In Prague, Tereza Ondrová and the team at Tanec Praha hosted an entire workshop over several days, entitled How to be together when we can’t be together: international workshop in Prague, suggesting that participants visit the city from afar, through a specially made audio guide, cooking meals, listening to music, conducting playful actions at home at the same time from different places…

It also meant suddenly working closely with the people that were still here inside emptied museum spaces: staff and guards. Ingrid Berger Myrhe shares her memory of a duet with a guard in Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam. A subtle choreography consisting of their shared presence in the space: Ingrid laying on the floor, reading, writing, sleeping, dancing in the space, Irma watching, walking, making an involuntary rhythm with the squeak of her shoes on the floor. A matter of unspoken negotiation, of evaluating space and distance, the comfort and discomfort brought by each other’s presences.

Experimenting meant also working with people sending videos and gestures from their contexts: Masako Matsushita’s Diary of a move, in the Spring of 2020, invited citizens from different countries to write a journal, record and send daily movements, constituting a living archive of a peculiar moment in time. In Barcelona, Quim Bigas asked children to send steps and tunes, in order to make a choreographic work. In Vitry-sur-Seine Ana Pi, with the help of the MAC VAL Museum team, organised a workshop about touch with actual people, in the time where it was (is?) almost a forbidden gesture, producing over 20 kilos of clay imprints and gestures, exposed and painted in gold as traces of this shared time. It also meant experimentation in the grounds of Newstead Abbey in Nottingham and visiting its ghosts with artists mayfield brooks, Mary Pearson, Seke Chimutengwende, who were invited by Eleanor Sikorski to take the space.
It meant making a radio show from a whatsapp group, sharing audio guides to experiment in one own’s city, sharing music, choreographic inputs and countless warm-ups online, multiplying the experience in different local contexts.

It made it all shine in a different, unexpected light. Working differently but at the heart of what Elisabetta highlights as possible outcomes of the project:
shift perceptions – shake the body-museum relationship – challenge perspective – inhabit a space differently – stay longer in the same space – change the logic – have a personal experience through a collective one – create experimental social learning spaces.